packingSo you’ve booked that perfect villa or apartment, you’ve got your airline tickets, and there’s an empty suitcase sitting on your bed… Now what?

Good packing can make the difference between a brisk walk to another terminal and a missed-plane disaster; between exploring all day and “sitting this one out” to nurse swollen blisters; between sleeping soundly and staying up all night to a symphony of barking dogs. So pack light – and smart! Here’s how. 

Clothes: Layers! Take a few light short-sleeved shirts and two good pairs of pants. After that, pack one or two long-sleeved shirts that can be worn over the t-shirts, a sweater, a canvas hat, and a waterproof windbreaker with a hood. If you have clothes that layer well, topped off with the windbreaker, you won’t need a jacket. You’ll be tromping around more than you think, and in the course of even the coldest day you’ll start stripping off those layers one by one. And yes, it is true that Europeans generally dress more formally than Americans, so keep that in mind if you want to “blend in.” For the ladies, bring one wrinkle-free black dress – this can be accessorized for any occasion.

Shoes and socks: When it comes to shoes, comfort comes first. This is not the time to break in a new pair or suffer for the sake of fashion. After a day traipsing through ancient ruins, up and down city blocks, or around an alpine lake, those frumpy old tennis shoes are going to be your new best friends. Another way to keep your feet happy is to carry an extra pair of (new) socks. Changing into a clean pair at noon is an easy way to refresh your tired toes! Also bring a pair of flip flops or sandals. These will come in handy at the beach, or just bumming around your villa or apartment.

Miscellany: So you’ve got your clothes, your shoes, and your toothbrush… that covers everything you’d need for a hotel. But you’ve rented a villa, which means you’ll be on your own. What do you bring to make your rental as comfy as home? 

1) Ziplock bags (in many sizes) are practically weightless – great for storing leftovers, small gifts, damp clothing, jewelry… and everything else. Pack empty baggies, pack baggies with cooking spices (salt, pepper, etc), and pack baggies with laundry soap (for machine or hand use).

2) A sharp knife will do wonders for your Italian cooking! Knives are probably the most-used kitchen item in any rental, which means they dull quickly. If you’re planning on cooking, definitely bring one of your own. 

3) A book of matches and a pair of earplugs never did anyone any harm. Other small but handy items include a stain remover stick, flashlight, sewing kit, and multipurpose tool (a Swiss Army knife or my tool of choice, the Leatherman).

4) Insect repellant. This may come as a surprise… but Europe has mosquitoes, too!  

5) Baby wipes are the salvation of any seasoned traveler. These can be used in lieu of napkins, hand soap, toilet paper, a clean restaurant table, and even a shower. A pack of tissue works nearly as well… except for showers.

6) Airborne is the closest thing to magic I have found. Take a water-soluble tablet before you get on the plane or whenever you’ll be exposed to large crowds – and avoid whatever plague may be circulating locally.

7) Beach towels are usually not provided at villas, although standard bathroom towels are. I recommend buying them cheap and leaving them behind.

Cell Phones: I highly recommend taking a cell phone to your European rental. If you have a dual- or tri-band cell phone, you should be able to use it with your current plan, but it’s more affordable to contact your provider and ask them how to “unlock” your phone. You can then purchase a pre-paid SIM Card that will work like a local number while in Europe. If you need a dual band cell phone, you can rent one.

Space: That’s right, take along some extra room! Take a larger bag than you need, pack a collapsible canvas tote, or take things (like toiletries, paperbacks, and even clothes) that you wouldn’t mind replacing if they had to make room for that precious new pair of Italian leather shoes…

Finally, remember that packing is a vital part of the villa experience. So don’t let it wait until the last minute! Make your list now and check it twice – or even thrice – before you go.